The Blawgosphere Turns a Page (Finally!)
posted by Dave Hoffman
I’ve been consuming lots of analysis of Tuesday’s happenings. Thousands (tens of thousands) of words on implications of the election for the parties, the economy, corporate law; some amazing journalism (reminding you of the value of professional reporters) peeking behind the scenes of the campaign; and a bit about the Emanuel brothers. (Imagine the strength of the mother that handled that trio.)
The brilliance of the political blogosphere throws a harsh and unflattering light on the law professor blogosphere. I don’t mean to harp, but it is striking to me that almost all political commentary you’ve seen on law professor blogs this last 6 or 12 or 18 months has been ill-informed, or vapid, contentless, and much, much too meta. (Yes, I get the irony. Indulge me.)
I originally wrote a long post trying to make sense of why law professors, who aren’t stupid, have time on their hands, and are selected professionally for their ability to write, have done such a bad job adding value as political commentators. But then I recalled that silence is often the best thing to say.* Still, I’ve spent too much time not to boil down my conclusions, with the personal stuff left out:  innumeracy leading to fetishizing statistical significance;  a failure to adopt Web 2.0 technologies;  silo-ing expertise;**  not enough conservative law professors bloggers to argue with and learn from;*** and, most importantly,  bloggers drawing the wrong lesson from their students’ willingness to write down every word they say.
I’ll expand a bit on . Not everything a professor says is interesting. When 40, 60, 100, or more students laugh at your jokes, I guess it becomes easy to forget. Generally, people add value by writing and talking about things they know something about. Thus, I agree with Leiter that Bill Henderson is one of the country’s best law professor bloggers. Most law professors have no personal experience with the innards of a modern political campaign (serving as an consultant on a committee about a substantive legal issue isn’t the same at all). We aren’t well positioned to know what commercial will appeal to lower-middle-class voters, or what song will inspire youth turnout. But we’ve blogged about it anyway.
In any event, as I’ve made clear in the past, I been pretty disappointed by the blawgosphere’s last six months. I hope that it’s behind us, and smell change is in the air. (The scent mixes the gravity of pounded sand and a freshness of a mountain glade.)
So . . . what’s next?
*** An example: Rick Hasen is tremendous, and it is great he’s on HuffPo, but it isolates him a bit from conservative law professors who believe that the right F/V ratio is <1. Those professors, in my view, are operating under a normatively undesirable assumption that lower, "better-informed" turnout is superior to higher turnout. They've mistakenly discounted the social utility of perceived legitimacy in ill-served subpopulations.
*** Notable exceptions include Kerr, Bainbridge, Volokh, and Garnett. I want to single out Orin for a second here in particular because Greenwald has libeled him. Orin has ably defended himself on the merits. And maybe Greenwald hasn’t really been reading Orin all that carefully, because I don’t see how you could conclude that OK is anything other than lucid, open-minded, and very pragmatic. Greenwald, by contrast, seems to be interested in maximizing his audience by slashing at people who disagree with him on the merits of a hard policy question. I guess it’s a living.